A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

Is the Bilderberg Group the center of the one-world conspiracy?

January 29, 1993

Dear Cecil:

You are the only person that can clear this up once and for all. What exactly is the Bilderberg Group? There have been accusations on the Larry King show that it is some kind of secret organization that has a lot of influence in shaping world events today and in the past. According to one caller, Bill Clinton was at one of their meetings a few years ago. Is any of this true? What's the deal?

Cecil replies:

Come on, we've been over this, you know who's really running things behind the scenes. Although I tell ya, I'm going to pronounce better next time I tell my lackeys to find me a U.S. president who likes sax.

The Bilderbergers are another one of those discussion groups for world leaders that have become a target of right wing crazy people. They're a little more secretive than most. You may remember we had a similar question years ago about the Trilateral Commission, which also sponsors meetings of international bigshots. I was delighted to discover that this supposedly secret nerve center of the one-world conspiracy was listed in the New York phone book.

Not so the Bilderbergers, and there wasn't much about them in the clip file either. No problem. I figured, hey, all these guys must hang out together, I'll call up my buds at the Trilateral Commission and ask for the Bilderbergers' number. Sure enough, while they're not all members of the same bowling league (the Bilderberg folks are headquartered in Amsterdam, so they couldn't get together on Wednesday nights), they do have some contact. In short order I'd gotten the number of a fellow named Charles in New York who does administrative and consulting work for the Bilderbergers.

Turns out there isn't really a Bilderberg "group" (although there is a 30-or-so-member steering committee), just an annual Bilderberg meeting, so named because it was first held in May 1954 in the Bilderberg Hotel in Oosterbeek, Holland. Why Holland? Well, it was the tulips, surely, but also the fact that the thing was organized by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, a devout internationalist who wanted to get selected leaders from Europe and North America together on a regular basis to talk about global problems. (The Japanese weren't and aren't invited--one of the reasons for the Trilateral Commission, in fact, was to cut the Japanese in on the world conspiracy action.) Typically there are about 100 attendees; apart from the core group, it's usually different people from government, business, and labor each time. Bill Clinton made the cut a couple years before he became president.

What do they talk about at Bilderberg meetings? Deep stuff, although from the standpoint of riveting your attention I don't know that it ranks up there with the NCAA finals. Charles was kind enough to send an old press release for the 1992 meeting in Evian, France, which lists such ponderous topics as Prospects for the Former Soviet Republics, What Should Be Done for Eastern Europe, and Whither the United States?

Then again, I've never actually been to a meeting, my invite having been swallowed up by the same postal black hole that got my MacArthur genius grant, so for all I know it's a front and what they really do is sit around in their skivvies and swap dirty jokes. Be that as it may, such luminaries as George Ball have written warmly about the experience.

All this internationalism has earned the enduring wrath of the America-first element, notably the ultrarightist Liberty Lobby, which goes after the Bilderbergers periodically in its newspaper The Spotlight. (Other targets include the Federal Reserve, the electoral college, and social security.) Prior to the fall of Communism, the idea that international cooperation might lead to a one-world state run by the Bolsheviks had the necessary few molecules of plausibility to give even sensible people the occasional twinge. Now it all just seems quaint.

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